On the 16th and 21st of April, I have had letters published (Kaieteur News) voicing my objection to the proposed subsidy of the Caribbean Premiere League Inc.’s Cricket Tournament to the detriment of locally organized sport, my objections have raised many questions from various quarters and also calls for clarity of my proposed remedies, please allow me space to ensure clarity on both fronts.
The first issue is the actual amount the government will pay CPL Inc. to have the semi-finals and Finals played in Guyana and the benefits to our nation, the Minister of Governance has said the final figure and package of benefits to CPL is yet to be agreed upon, but he subtly suggested a figure of One Million Five Hundred thousand USD, (315 Million GYD, $1 USD =$210 GYD). For the purpose of this letter I am willing to go along with this charade so as not to cloud the waters, the Minister outlined benefits in return for this outlay thusly “We believe, for the reasons I stated, this is our jubilee year, cricket of course, given the West Indies teams, the three teams glorious feats, we believe that having cricket here, having international stars in Guyana, just the festive mood would be a good injection to our economy. Sometimes you can’t put a dollar value to…the strengthening of cricket in the Caribbean. It has taken a beating and we believe this tournament being held in Guyana will not only serve Guyana’s purposes but also the Caribbean’s.”
Surely the government of Guyana did not base its decision to subsidize a league owned by one of the world’s richest men, Denis O’Brien (net worth 6.7 Billion USD Forbes) locally known as the owner of mobile phone company Digicel and whose annual income exceeds our GDP because it felt it would add festive cheer in a jubilee year? The CPL is privately owned as is the Guyana based franchise the Amazon Warriors which is owned By Dr. Ranjisinghi (Bobby) Ramroop, Principal owner of Guyana Pharmaceutical Corporation (New GPC).
The cost of operating the league has been cleverly recouped by a combination of sale of television rights, team sponsorship and threats to move teams away from countries that do not ‘invest’ as evidenced by testimony of Indian Billionaire Vijay Malia who bought the Barbados Tridents for $100 USD and said, “I went to the Barbados government saying I need your support. I met the Prime Minister and the government agreed to support but I paid USD $100 only to buy the team. Running the team will cost about USD $2 million but the Barbados government is granting subsidies to the franchise”.
I would suggest that International stars and West Indies cricket will be in Guyana for a series of One day International matches this year, hence this ‘need’ will be satisfied and a temporary removal of tax on alcohol for the jubilee year would produce much more festive cheer. The Government of Guyana will recover no money directly, the gate receipts will go to Amazon Warriors Dr. Bobby Ramroop and is expected to be more than Two million USD, and the aforementioned Television rights will go to CPL Inc. What we the people and our government get is the right to pay the bills for the CPL and its plethora of Billionaire owners.
The second issue is the status of local sport, in stark contrast to the Billionaire owned CPL our local sport bodies are not billionaire owned, there is no policy of government subsidization of any kind, all of the organizations are volunteer led, none can afford to deliver a nationwide school programme, very few can support any school programme, all are willing to do more to enhance the opportunities available to the youth of our nation, in light of the willingness of government to splurge hundreds of millions to subsidize a foreign owned entity’s sporting event while neglecting the needs at home.
The time has come for serious negotiation with the Guyana Olympic Association (our union of sorts) to chart a way forward. The Minister of Education recently said “Education is more than passing exams, schools must produce rounded students” unless he means obese students. I would suggest that the good Minister examine how the talk of sport in school can be translated into reality. It would do the present administration to be reminded of the thoughts of the PNC Founder Leader President L. F.S Burnham with regards to the Government funding of private schools; “I am not for one moment saying that those schools which have been granted aid should not have been granted aid. Rather I am saying that the Government’s policy is such that the schools which need most are those that are left out. In other words, if you can find some rich benefactor, some wealthy testator, some philanthropic and wealthy individual to put up a fine building for you, to build a laboratory for you, well then, according to Government’s policy you can apply for and get aid. Admittedly, even after one has been fortunate enough to get a benefactor to put up a building and build a laboratory, Government aid will still be necessary. But why give aid to such schools to the exclusion of other schools which need aid badly?
A reminder that charity begins at home and ‘the grass growing while the horse starving’ is not untimely.
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